David Reinbacher Will Benefit From Juraj Slafkovsky’s Struggles

Reinbacher will have Slaf to lean on, when the times get tough, which they will, Juraj has been through it and emerged on the other side.

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits / Terry Wyatt/GettyImages

When the Montreal Canadiens opted to select David Reinbacher with the fifth overall selection in the 2023 NHL Draft, to say fans were divided would be an understatement.

12 months earlier, the Canadiens held the first overall selection, and their pick was perhaps the most important, in a long time for the Habs. Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes got his guy - Juraj Slafkovsky - and his slow rise, had many write him off by April last year. Reinbacher has yet to play a regular season game for Montreal, but he isn’t Matvei Michkov, Ryan Leonard or Zach Benson - high-potential forwards, that project to be difference makers in the NHL.

The fact is that he isn’t who the majority would have preferred. Hughes should know this team is starved for offense right? Sure he does, but still many question him. However, he won’t be let off the hook so easily.

He wasn’t for Slafkovsky, but come to think about it, that doesn’t matter. A hockey hotbed like Montreal can swallow you up if you let it. And like Slafkovsky before him, avoiding social media could serve the Austrian defender well; it’s a nasty place at times. 

Something that could come to help Reinbacher, is the rough path that Slafkovsky skated on. Slafkovsky had all the resources necessary, and it all started to click for him. But the experience, the insights absorbed from the struggle, could be a blessing in disguise.

Reinbacher will undoubtedly have the same support that Slafkovsky has had. But Reinbacher will be able to lean on the first overall selection from the draft before his. If anybody is familiar with the venom that gets spewed, it’s Slafkovsky, and his advice could go a long way for the ‘23 fifth-overall pick. 

It hasn’t gone the way that the team or player would have liked. Reinbacher’s club, EHC Kloten, has been awful, many have hinted at the idea of him coming to North America ahead of schedule. That hasn’t happened, but it seems likely that he will be back with the Canadiens soon. 

Since the NL season finishes earlier than the AHL and NHL, and Kloten isn’t going to qualify for the playoffs, Reinbacher could be in Montreal before the end of March. Which would be ideal, considering that the Habs haven’t been able to train with him. Adam Nicholas has done a tremendous job with No. 20, and it’s fair to say Reinbacher is in good hands. 

Patience is a virtue, a tough one at that, but it will serve the organization well. Just like with Slafkovsky, all the naysayers who rushed him can’t say much now. Reinbacher fits management’s vision for this team, and I can’t see why that would be harmful in any way. 

As evidenced by the Canadiens' depth on defence, and many Stanley Cup champions, defensive depth is essential. The potential for Reinbacher was too high to ignore. I say Habs management has earned some more slack in the leash, let’s let the kid play before writing him off. 

Big, right-shot defencemen are a hot commodity in the NHL. New Jersey drafted Simon Nemec and Columbus selected David Jiricek because they knew it. If you look across the NHL, there aren’t many 6 foot 3-plus righties selected in the first round, that their coaches don’t love.

There are exceptions, players that don’t reach their potential, but there is no reason to believe Reinbacher will slot into that category. There is a tried and true system that successful organizations follow. In short order, the Canadiens have got the best out of Slafkovsky, through reliance on their development staff.

Inevitably Reinbacher will go through what the Canadiens deem best for his progression and growth towards becoming a good NHL defenseman.